Private investments in industrial & warehousing assets in India

Private investments in industrial & warehousing assets in India

A. Why private investors are interested in investing in industrial and warehousing assets?

Industrial and Warehousing sector has achieved new benchmarks in terms of demand, supply and investments owing to:

  1. Strong Demand: Warehousing sector is witnessing steady demand from e- commerce, 3PL (third-party logistics), cold storage, pharma, Engineering & manufacturing, and electronics sectors.
  2. Institutionalization & Consolidation: Entry of big players in the warehousing sector that was otherwise dominated by small players, helped in consolidation of the sector as an investment segment in Real estate.
  3. Policy Impetus: Government’s push for Make in India policy and rising interest of multinational firms setting-up their manufacturing base in India. Policy impetus and reforms have brought in transparency. Also, implementation of GST has brought transparency in industrial and warehousing sectors and strengthened investor’s interest.

Further, post outbreak of COVID-19, investors are more inclined to invest in industrial and warehousing assets compared to commercial assets. This shift is on account of expected high demand, occupancy stability, attractive rental yield, and appreciation in long-term.

B. What are the Challenges faced by investors?
Despite high demand from investors in this segment, fewer transactions are concluding owing to wide gap between seller’s and buyer’s expectations. Investors are looking for following attributes in investment opportunities:

  1. Tenanted asset
  2. ‘AAA’ Tenant
  3. Grade A facility
  4. Rental Yield rate of 9%+ (for warehousing assets) and 10%+ (for industrial assets); annual appreciation of 5%.
  5. Long lease and lock-in periods

Knowing the deal supply is low, investors are unlikely to get many options fulfilling all or most of the above listed criteria in ready assets. Therefore, private investors may need to moderate their expectations for few parameters if they would like to participate in this sector.

Institutional investor backed by warehousing developers achieve 10% rental yield on cost basis. They acquire land, develop, and lease it. They are owned by fund houses that are evaluating an exit via REIT Listing at 8% or so at appropriate period (long-term/ 3 to 5 years from now).

C. How private investors can participate in industrial and warehousing assets?
Knowing quality supply is limited, private investors need to invest in greenfield warehousing projects. There are pre-leased commitments possible in this sector if one has converted land parcel with plan approval located along growth corridors of preferred cities. However, pre-commitments are made by handful large e-commerce or 3PL firms (for requirements of 1L sqft and above) where as mid-sized warehousing requirements need to be fulfilled in shorter time period and required ready to move-in facilities. Therefore, private investors need to be open for speculation development along growth corridors (for warehousing) as well.

Following are the routes for private investors based on their development capabilities:

  1. Build-Own-Operate (BOO) Model: If investor has development capability, they can buy land, develop, and lease it.
  2. Partnership model. If investor does not have development capability. There are 3 options available for investment:
    • A. Joint Development (JD): The investor invests in land and development partner invests in development of the property. Development partner is also responsible for availing approvals, development, and leasing of the facility. The sharing ratio between LL and developer is based on rentals; LL’s share varies between 20% and 35% in the case where monthly rentals range between INR 14 per sqft and INR 24 per sqft.
    • B. Development Management: In this model, the investor invests in land and development, whereas development partner is responsible of execution and leasing of the facility. In most of the DM contract direct costs incurred by development partner is reimbursed by the investor. The development partner receives either an incentive fee based on development cost (generally varies between 5% and 8% of the development cost) or a sweat equity in terms of area or revenue share in the development.
    • C. Joint Venture (JV): If investor has partial development execution capability, JV can be explored. Here, the investor and development partner forms a SPV and are co-investors for land, development and execution as per agreed ratio. The execution responsibilities are divided between both the parties, generally as per functions: approvals, development, and leasing. The property is shared between the two based on the ratio of investment.

D. Return computation for warehousing developments.
RoI of warehousing assets is like office assets. The rental yield for both assets varies between 8% and 9% and annual rental escalation of 5%. Yes, the office assets with this RoI are located at matured location whereas warehousing assets are located along peripheral location. Investor needs to consider following attributes of warehousing assets during evaluation process:

  1. The land parcels are located along growth corridors and appreciates at much faster compared to matured locations.
  2. Provides redevelopment opportunity after 10-15 years with higher land valuation.
  3. The payback period for construction cost components is lesser compared to other commercial assets.
  4. Warehousing asset class will witness compression of yield rate higher and sooner compared to other commercial assets. Warehousing sector is still in emerging space and will mature in next 5 years or so.

Many landowners who have been holding land historically and plans to continue holding for long-term. They compute rental yield on only development cost (not considering land value). The rental yield (for development cost) for warehousing is close to 15%. They leverage their property to raise construction loan at 12% and the same is transformed into Lease Rental Discount (LRD) post occupancy at 8%. They can raise up to 80% of the construction cost and the loan is paid back in around 8 years.

E. How to choose warehousing investments?
Investors/ owners needs to choose warehousing investments considering following parameters:

  • - Location: To be located along warehousing growth corridor of the city.
  • - Select land along main road if possible (for future redevelopment perspective)
  • - Select commercial land use: This gives higher ground coverage and will have higher future value for redevelopment in long-term.
  • - Develop Grade A specification facilities with latest available building function technology and follow ESG principles.
  • - Develop sizeable development (10 acres+) so that ancillary facilities can be provided.

If investor is investing into brownfield development, evaluate considering tenant’s profile, lease term, lock-in period, and commercials.

It is important to conduct in-depth due diligence from legal, regulatory, structure and lease audit before finalizing the transaction.

F. What is the status of industrial investments?
Private investors are aggressively looking to invest in industrial real estate assets at 10%+ rental yield, annual escalation of 5%, long lease period with lock-in period of more than 10 years. However, currently traction is low due to non-availability of opportunities. It is likely to gain traction in near future as many foreign firms are setting up manufacturing base in India and they prefer lease model as against owning an asset. Also, many Indian firms (or, JV with foreign firms) are setting-up contract manufacturing plants in India. They have limited capital and are likely to reduce capital requirement through acquiring properties on lease basis.

G. Conclusion
This is a good period for investments in warehousing and industrial sector. Warehousing is moving towards the growth phase and offers a competitive advantage to the investors in the long-term. It is a supplier’s market, and it is expected to remain this way for at least coming 5 years. Therefore, investors at this stage may need to participate in greenfield Grade A warehousing projects. Post 3 to 5 years, the sizeable Grade A inventory may be available for investment as well.

This segment may witness consolidation in coming years and compression of yield rate. We are expecting India’s first industrial (warehousing) REIT listing in next 3 to 5 years. This sector is expected to remain attractive to investors for long time.

About the Author

Gorakh Jhunjhunwala, MRICS

Gorakh Jhunjhunwala, MRICS

Gorakh spearheads Meraqi's overall operations, direction, strategy and growth.
He is a veteran real estate professional and has multidisciplinary experience across advisory, valuations, capital markets and investment management. He has advised over 50 clients on numerous consulting assignments and executed investment transactions valued at USD 100 million.
Gorakh holds a B. Arch from RVCE, Bangalore and M. Tech from IIT Delhi. Prior to founding Meraqi, he has spent over 15 years in key roles with leading multi-national real estate service providers.